‘Tireless champion for press freedom’: Media workers pay tribute to late veteran journalist Nonoy Espina

July 8, 2021 - 3:51 PM
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Former NUJP chairman Nonoy Espina leads a protest in support of ABS-CBN on February 21, 2020. (AFP via Nonoy Espina/Facebook)

Members of the media honored veteran journalist and former chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Jose Jaime “Nonoy” Espina, who passed away on Wednesday.

Inday Espina-Varona, Espina’s sister and veteran journalist, said her brother “passed on peacefully, quietly surrounded by family” in Bacolod after succumbing to liver cancer on Wednesday, evening.

She also wrote a lengthy tribute detailing the contributions of Espina to the industry.

“A man of many talents, he drew, he danced, he composed, played the piano and sang, mostly jazz and blues, in a distinct gravelly voice,” Espina-Varona wrote in a Facebook post.

“He wore many hats but he was first and foremost a journalist,” she added.

For Espina-Varona, her brother was an extraordinary person.

“Like many journalists, he was materially poor, but in his devotion to the profession and our people, he was hindi pangkaraniwang tao [as Danny Fabella sang],” Espina-Varona said.

“To his last breath, he waved that banner. Patriot, journalist, loving husband, father, and brother, you will not be forgotten,” she added.

In a statement, NUJP likewise paid tribute to Espina who they describe as “a tireless champion for the freedom of the press and the welfare of media workers.”

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) also recognized Espina’s contribution to journalism and press freedom.

“While he led rallies in the streets and raised press freedom advocacies, Nonoy did not loom large over many but was a media everyman,” FOCAP said in a statement.

“[Espina] has a laidback and friendly demeanor that fostered a life of activism in one of the most perilous countries in the world for journalists,” it added.

Other media workers also took to social media to express their appreciation and gratitude for Espina’s dedication to the profession.

Some of them recalled their fondest memories with Espina as well as his past interviews.

“Nonoy leaves us with lessons and fond memories, as well as the words he often used in statements: That the press is not free because it is allowed to be. It is free because it insists on being free,” NUJP said.

Espina-Varona said her brother preferred to mostly practice his journalism in his home province in Negros Occidental.

Throughout his career, Espina worked in various media outlets such as the now defunct Today Newspaper as well as the Lifestyle Magazine of the Manila Standard.

He was also a former senior editor of Inquirer.net and Interaksyon.

Espina-Varona said that since Bacolod is under the general community quarantine, there will be no wake for her brother.

In her latest Facebook post, Espina-Varona said they will have a private interment for her brother to comply with local pandemic protocols. However, she said there is no schedule for it yet as they are still consolidating family schedule. —With Rosette Adel